Parallel Prairies review

Parallel Prairies cover

This is the first review I’ve come across for the new made-in-Man­i­to­ba anthol­o­gy Par­al­lel Prairies, and I’m glad to say the review­er appears to have enjoyed my short sto­ry “Vin­cent and Char­lie”.

Anoth­er rur­al close encounter of note in the col­lec­tion is Bran­don-based Patrick Johanneson’s Vin­cent and Char­lie. The sto­ry explores the con­cept of alien telepa­thy and mem­o­ry manip­u­la­tion from inside a mind descend­ing into demen­tia. Johan­neson finds an art­ful bal­ance between sus­pense and sen­ti­men­tal­i­ty and adds a soupçon of Men in Black for good mea­sure.

Sarah Jo Kirsch, The Uniter

Read the full review here.

Par­al­lel Prairies launch­es Oct. 11, 2018, at McNal­ly Robin­son Book­sellers in Win­nipeg, and Oct. 13, 2018, at Bran­don University’s John E. Rob­bins Library.

You can order the book from McNal­ly Robin­son, too, if you’d like (there will be copies avail­able at the launch­es, of course).

Something upcoming

fountain pen on notepad

A cou­ple lines from my get­ting-clos­er-to-com­plet­ed first draft of Trans­la­tions:

Gen­er­al Armitage gave me an amused look. “Oh, but you’re not Daniel Sny­der,” he said. He held up a pho­to of my father: “This is Daniel Sny­der.”


Head­er pho­to by Aaron Bur­den on Unsplash.


My goals for my writ­ing retreat, 2018 edi­tion, were pret­ty sim­ple:

  1. Get at least 10,000 words writ­ten in Trans­la­tions, prefer­ably more like 12,500.
  2. Do some astropho­tog­ra­phy and just gen­er­al pho­tog­ra­phy.
  3. Do some kayak­ing and bike rid­ing.

How’d I do?

At the start of the week, my nov­el sat at 65, 968 words. As I write this, I’ve just crossed the 80,000–word mark. So I man­aged 14,055 new words in this first draft. I’m hap­py with that—especially con­sid­er­ing that I essen­tial­ly took Fri­day off from writ­ing.

Also, I got a pile of pho­tos tak­en. I had hoped for some good shots of the Milky Way, but the moon was near­ing full, so the skies were too bright for that. I did get a cou­ple nice star-trail shots, though.

I also went to Win­nipeg, for Chadwick’s book launch, and had a love­ly chat in the evening with Mike & Michelle, a cou­ple friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

As far as kayaking—well, the weath­er didn’t coop­er­ate. It was con­sis­tent­ly around 20°C here this week, which is a bit chilly to go out on the lake. It’s sup­posed to hit 27 or 28 Mon­day, but by then I’ll be back at the office. I did go for a few bike rides, which was nice, and as I write this on Sun­day, I’m plan­ning one more before I pack up and leave.

So, on the whole, I’m going to call Writ­ing Retreat 2018 a suc­cess. It’s been a pro­duc­tive, fun, glo­ri­ous time, and I’m going to miss it.

Same time next year.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: The Weekend

Star trails above a pond and field, near Minnedosa, MB.


The neigh­bours start­ed show­ing up at their cab­ins on Fri­day. After hav­ing the run of the place, I had to reac­cli­ma­tize myself to peo­ple. It wasn’t easy. (If I used emo­ji on this blog, there would be a winky face right here.)

The fam­i­ly to the north is hav­ing Hydro-relat­ed issues (the short ver­sion is they have no elec­tric­i­ty, and prob­a­bly won’t till at least Mon­day). Ed, who owns the cab­in where I live, let them run  a cou­ple exten­sion cords from his out­side plug so they could have refrig­er­a­tion. In return, they’ve turned on their wifi and gave me the pass­word. So now I can post with­out hav­ing to go down to the cof­fee shop in town (not that that was any great hard­ship).

I gave myself Fri­day off from writ­ing, but I still did a bunch of writ­ing-relat­ed busi­ness: I read out on the deck, I checked in on the sta­tus of “Me and the Bee” with the mar­kets that have had it since Feb­ru­ary (one rejec­tion, damn it, and one hasn’t yet replied) and did some research on The Sub­mis­sion Grinder, look­ing for a pos­si­ble home for it. I’m start­ing to think  I might just have to pub­lish it here and be done, but I’ll wait a while longer.

In the evening I head­ed out to do some star-trail pho­tog­ra­phy, but got about ten min­utes out and the clouds rolled in, so I returned to the cab­in and went to bed instead.


Sat­ur­day I final­ly got out onto the deck to do some writ­ing. It was pret­ty nice, though it’s a lit­tle annoy­ing hav­ing to shut my lap­top down com­plete­ly to move it from one plug to anoth­er (the battery’s shot, so it’s just the way it is).

I did my 1,250 words, then took a dri­ve to Shi­lo with Kath­leen and a cou­ple oth­ers, where we served as non-skat­ing offi­cials (or “flamin­goes”, thanks to the pink shirts we were giv­en to wear) at Scar­let Fever’s deci­sive vic­to­ry over a Win­nipeg roller-der­by team whose name, sor­ry to say, eludes me at the moment.

It was about mid­night when we left the after-par­ty (first in last out, woo), and then I hemmed and hawed about whether I’d go back to the cab­in or sleep at home. In the end, the cloud­less night con­vinced me, and I man­aged to get the pho­to above (star trails over a pond and canola field, just north of Minnedosa). It was 3 AM by the time I got to bed.


And now here I am, out on the deck again, writ­ing this post. Once it’s done, I’ll do my 1,250 words, and then I guess pack every­thing up and head home.

Thanks, Karen and Ed, for the use of the cab­in. I real­ly appre­ci­ate it.

Thanks, Minnedosa. It’s been great. Same time next year?

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday

Chadwick Ginther reads from his new novel

Tues­day and Wednes­day were a lot like Mon­day, except I didn’t set my alarm for 2:30 AM either day.


I got up, wrote, read, wrote some more, then head­ed to Win­nipeg, to see my friend Chad­wick Ginther launch his new nov­el, Grave­yard Mind, at McNal­ly Robin­son.

Chad­wick read­ing from Grave­yard Mind.

On my way, I hap­pened upon a love­ly field of sun­flow­ers, so I stopped for a few pho­tos. None of them turned out, because I neglect­ed to turn on the aut­o­fo­cus on my lens. But that’s OK, because I went back today (Fri­day) to scout the spot for a pos­si­ble round of star trails lat­er tonight, and I got this pho­to:

One sun­flower, look­ing back

And then, after vis­it­ing with some friends in Win­nipeg (thanks for the iced tea, Mike & Michelle!), I stopped in at the aban­doned house near Erick­son, and got about a half-hour’s worth of star trails.

Star trails above the aban­doned house

It was about 2:30 AM when I got back to the cab­in (hmm, I seem to have an affin­i­ty for that time…), so I start­ed the star-trail GIMP plu­g­in whose even­tu­al out­put you see above,  then went to bed.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: Monday

Bison at Minnedosa

Mon­day morn­ing I got my 1,250 words done quick­ly, then reward­ed myself with a cou­ple more episodes of Car­nivàle. (Aside: I don’t know what’s up with the à in Car­nivàle, any more than I know what’s up with my friend that insist­ed on pro­nounc­ing it Car­ni­valé.)

In the after­noon I head­ed into town on a cou­ple mis­sions: I want­ed to get some sup­plies for the cab­in (milk for my morn­ing cof­fee, for instance, and peanut but­ter for my toast), and I want­ed to upload Sunday’s pho­tos, if pos­si­ble. I took my lap­top to the cof­fee shop for the sec­ond mis­sion, and got per­mis­sion to plug it in. (The bat­tery no longer charges, and it’s time for a new lap­top, or at least a new bat­tery.) I sat down at a table near the out­let, pulled out my lap­top, and dis­cov­ered that I’d left the cord back at the cab­in.

At least I man­aged to get milk and peanut but­ter.

Lat­er in the day I went for a bike ride, and snapped pho­tos of a bush full of red berries (I think they’re prob­a­bly chokecher­ries, but I’m not sure enough that I’m going to taste them) and some of the bison in the bison enclo­sure (see up top).

Bright red berries; possibly chokecherries
I think these might be chokecher­ries, but I’m not sure enough to try and eat them.

In the evening, after sup­per, I did my 1,250 words, then went to bed fair­ly ear­ly. I had a plan, you see: I set my alarm for 2:30 AM, with the intent of get­ting to the aban­doned house (see Sunday’s post) to get a longer set of star trails. I want­ed to get there before moon­set, so that the moon would part­ly light the house, and then stay till after the moon had gone down.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the weath­er didn’t coop­er­ate. Clouds start­ed rolling in to the north (to shoot the house, I’m shoot­ing to the north­east), mean­ing that my star trail plan would be nixed. Also, I mis­cal­cu­lat­ed how much moon I’d have; it had near­ly set by the time I got halfway to the house.

Sigh­ing, long­ing for bed, I turned around and start­ed home. Some­thing made me stop, though, about halfway back, at the top of a val­ley on the road between Minnedosa and Erick­son.

The auro­ra were putting on a bit of a light show. I’d checked Space Weath­er ear­li­er in the day, and found that there was a chance of a mild geo­mag­net­ic storm, so I kind of halfway expect­ed it.

I stopped, and got some pho­tos. I’m hap­py with what I got. At least I didn’t get up at 2:30 AM and dri­ve 45 min­utes round-trip for noth­ing.

Aurora Borealis
A bit of a light show, between Minnedosa and Erick­son

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.

Writing Retreat 2018: Sunday

Clouds at sunset

This week is my writ­ing retreat at Minnedosa. I’ve set myself a goal of 2,500 words a day, split between a morn­ing and an evening writ­ing sprint. I’m also tak­ing advan­tage of the clear(ish) skies to do some astropho­tog­ra­phy.

On Sun­day, I arrived in the ear­ly after­noon. I went for a vis­it with my land­lords (whose cab­in I’m bor­row­ing for the week), then set­tled in at the cab­in. In the evening I did my 1,250 words, then hit the road. There’s an old, aban­doned house that I got a geo­t­agged pho­to of last year, and I want­ed to see if I could find it. I thought it’d be a great loca­tion for some night pho­tos: the Milky Way, per­haps, or some star trails.

(The moon is clos­ing in on full right now, and it tends to wash out the fainter stars, so if I want Milky Way, I have to wait till after moon­set. That’s… dif­fi­cult, since it sets some­where around 3 or 4 AM these days. (More on that in Monday’s post.))

I want­ed to find the old house while it was still light, so I left the cab­in around 9 PM and drove the half-hour north, up a high­way that went from pave­ment to grav­el about ⅓ of my way to my des­ti­na­tion. (There was anoth­er route, pos­si­bly a lit­tle longer, but I knew it’d be paved the whole way. I decid­ed I’d take it when I returned, after dark.)

I found the house, and then, since the sun was just bare­ly set­ting, went for a tour. I drove down to Neep­awa, stop­ping at the side of the road when I saw a par­tic­u­lar­ly spec­tac­u­lar cloud lit by the sun­set (above). From there I drove back to the cab­in, where I watched a cou­ple episodes of Car­nivàle, wait­ing for full dark.

Just around mid­night I set out again. I found the house in the dark, and snapped a few pho­tos. I’m plan­ning to head back for more anoth­er night.

And then I went back to my home for the week, and crawled into bed around 2 AM.

Series: Writing Retreat 2018

The entire series: Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Sun­day; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: Mon­day; Writ­ing Retreat, 2018: Tuesday–Thursday; Writ­ing Retreat 2018: The Week­end; Wrap-up.